With the recent announcement that general conference speakers may opt to speak in their native language, many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are wondering which languages we’ll be listening to as we read English subtitles. Utah Valley 360 did a nice article on some possibilities. According to their article, we could be hearing Spanish, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Korean, Shona, Swahili, Cebuano, Swedish, French, Cantonese, & Afrikanns. According to Larry Richman who runs LDS Media Talk, 31 General Authorities speak languages other than English as their first language.
It does lead one to wonder, how many current LDS general leaders where born outside of the United States? First, to quickly define a “general leader”. Basically, their calling or authority to lead extends to the worldwide Church. That’s why they speak at General Conference, because their message is for the whole Church. General leaders can be divided into 2 categories, General Authorities and General Auxiliary leaders.
“General Authorities” refers to the The First Presidency, The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the 1st and 2nd Quorums of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. These men have the priesthood authority to lead anywhere on Earth, but most of the Seventies have assignments to a specific geographic region of the world. The most well known General Authority born outside the U.S. is Pres. Uchtdorf, who was born in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia. He moved to Germany when he was very young, and his first language is German. The rest of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve were born in the U.S. Of the remaining General Authorities, 38 were born outside of the U.S. These 38 hail from:
Republic of Korea
United Kingdom (2)
The other category of general leaders, an “auxiliary general leader,” could refer to the presidency or board members of the Church’s 5 auxiliaries. These auxiliary organizations include: Primary (children 18 months to age 11), Relief Society (women over 18), Sunday School (all members over age 12), Young Women (ages 12-17), & Young Men (ages 12-17). Current auxiliary leaders were born in a variety of countries outside of the U.S., including: Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, & Uruguay.
Traditionally, auxiliary presidencies and their boards have all lived in Utah when they were called to their current leadership position, even those members who were born in other countries. This is due more to logistics than righteousness or willingness to serve. With advances in technology making virtual meetings possible, the Young Women’s General Board has members currently living in Peru, South Africa, Brazil, & Japan. You can read more about that exciting announcement HERE. I expect this trend to continue for the other general boards as they are periodically reorganized.
If you would like to know more about the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, go HERE.